By M. Dana Baldwin, Senior Consultant
When the economy goes through the tough times it has recently, a number of things start to change both inside and outside your company. First, review your strategic plan, to account for the changing business conditions. As a part of this, you look around to see what can be trimmed without harming your service levels and your products. Next you look to see what technologies can replace your current processes and people, and if it is affordable at a time when you are tightening your belt and not spending money unless there is excellent justification for doing so.
You make every effort to do more with less, as is everyone else. Maybe you do less promotion, go to fewer trade exhibitions and shows, cut your advertising budget, send one person on a sales call when in the past you might have sent two.
But what effects will these changes have on your culture and processes going forward, once the recession is behind us, and the economy is more robust?
Will you continue to be thrifty, as you are now with the recession so close behind us? Will your prior habits take over again, or will you continue your closely controlled ways? Good questions, and only you and your people can answer them for your company.
Are there some longer term effects which may remain with you for the foreseeable future? For example, one possible effect of your tightened control on expenditures may have had both short term benefits and longer term impacts which may or may not be favorable to your company.
The short term benefits are usually pretty obvious: Better utilization of cash, more people contributing to the effectiveness of your company by working additional hours, taking on additional responsibilities, doing more with less, etc.
But at what price for the long term? How have your company’s relationships with customers been changed? Has this been for the better, or is there a negative impact possible if you do not go back to more personal contact? How has technology impacted these relationships? Are your customers willing to accept less personal contact during the slow times, but expecting to increase that type of contact when things improve?
Do your customers like the effects of technology, or are they merely putting up with it during the slow times because they know everyone is keeping a tight rein on expenses? What will be the longer term use of technology that will help your relationships with your customers?
Inevitably, some will do just fine with the new levels of contact, less personal and remote. Others will want to resume the more intimate, personal service that they enjoyed prior to the recession, and will resent not getting it if you do not respond to their needs as they were used to having them met.
Your challenge is to determine what each customer needs and to meet those needs. And, don’t expect them to tell you without your probing to find out. If you don’t change to fulfill their expectations, they may drift away, and you may suffer because of your insensitivity to their preferred mode of communication. We suggest you work with your people to help them determine the best way to communicate with each individual contact so you meet their needs and preferences for communication, both formal and informal, so you nurture the relationships. Your business will be healthier for it, and so will your customers’ businesses.
M. Dana Baldwin is a Senior Consultant with Center for Simplified Strategic Planning, Inc. and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
© Copyright 2011 by Center for Simplified Strategic Planning, Inc., Ann Arbor, MI — Reprint permission granted with full attribution.